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City of Powell River initiates public engagement for 'heart of the city' plan

"The Downtown Plan project is an opportunity to look at public and private land along Marine and Willingdon avenues, and with community input, create a vision for the future of our downtown," ~ Manager of planning services Daniella Fergusson

City of Powell River is starting a public engagement process to create a new vision for its downtown.

The Marine/Willingdon Downtown Plan project is an important opportunity to bring the community together and reframe how the heart of the city is experienced, according to a media release from the city.

The plan will establish a cohesive vision for the downtown core, specifically Marine and Willingdon avenues, as well as several city-owned properties. The opportunity of this project is to build on what makes downtown successful today and further strengthen how it feels as a thriving neighbourhood and a gateway to Powell River from Vancouver Island, the release stated.

“The Downtown Plan project is an opportunity to look at public and private land along Marine and Willingdon avenues, and with community input, create a vision for the future of our downtown; this process has just started and will take about a year,” stated city manager of planning services Daniella Fergusson. “The first opportunity for people to see what this is all about and share their ideas is at Blackberry Festival on August 19. It’s fitting that we meet the public for the first time downtown on Marine Avenue at the biggest community event of the year. We also have more information on our community engagement site, Participate Powell River.”

The city has already added two projects to the appeal of downtown: the annual Business Façade Improvement Program and a new public gathering area. Intended to improve the physical appearance of building façades in Powell River’s neighbourhood commercial areas, the façade program provides grants of up to $6,000 for projects valued at $10,000 or more.

Outdoor space is critical to making downtown a place where people want to live, visit and work, and the city recently opened a public gathering place on the corner of Marine Avenue and Alberni Street, the release stated.

“The Marine/Willingdon downtown core is a really important centre as it not only serves as a home for small businesses but acts as a connector from the waterfront to other parts of the community,” stated city director of properties, development and communications Scott Randolph. “This plan will help us to formulate a strategy with defined actions for increasing its vibrancy as a commercial district, place to live and visit.”

Randolph noted that the project is being funded by the BC Government through the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program and includes monies to undertake initial implementation projects once the Downtown Plan is complete. The plan will include improved development permit guidelines for the area, a detailed look at Willingdon Avenue, and land use concepts for the former arena site in the Willingdon Beach area and the Westview wastewater treatment site. Once complete, the plan will be presented to city council for consideration.

The release included the following points:

Public space is one of the key features that all successful downtowns share;

Successful downtowns are also pedestrian and bicycle friendly;

There is a mix of uses, including retail, office, residential, hospitality, entertainment, and events spaces;

A residential base within walking distance from downtown supports businesses with a steady stream of traffic and potential customers and it fosters a sense of community;

Culture and entertainment is celebrated;

A successful downtown is a clean and safe environment.